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Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 @ 22:22:30 GMT by vlad

Science THE PHYSICS STORY OF THE YEAR FOR 2006 was, we believe, the new high precision (0.76 parts per trillion uncertainty) measurement of the electron's magnetic moment by Gerald Gabrielse and his colleagues at Harvard. Then in a second paper the same experimenters used the new moment in tandem with a fresh formulation of quantum electrodynamics (QED) provided by theoretical colleagues to formulate a new value for the fine structure constant (denoted by the letter alpha), the pivotal parameter which sets the overall strength of the electromagnetic force.

The new value has an uncertainty of 0.7 parts per billion, the first major revision of alpha in 20 years. A comparison between this new value and values determined by other methods provides the best test yet of quantum electrodynamics (QED) (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/783-1.html; also see Physics Today, Aug 2006). Other top physics stories for the year, in no particular order, are listed below with links to pertinent PNU items (and sometimes figures) from the past year. These top stories include the observation of many more supernovas at redshifts of 1, thus establishing the idea that dark energy was around even in the early universe (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/802-1.html); the first direct measurement of turbulence in space (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/802-2.html); the best direct test of Einstein's E=mc^2 formula (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/761-1.html); new WMAP measurements of the cosmic microwave background, including polarization information, help to sharpen cosmological numbers such as the age or the flatness of the universe
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/794-1.html); first matter-antimatter chemistry
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/796-1.html); elements 116 and 118; 2006 Nobel prize in physics for Smoot and Mather
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/795-1.html); advances in plasmonics, or "two-dimensional light"
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/770-1.html); advances in the study of graphene, including the discovery of a new form of the Hall effect (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/769-2.html); progress at several labs in modeling gravity wave transmissions from black hole mergers, the kinds of events which LIGO or LISA would possibly detect (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/771-1.html); measuring the presence of virtual strange quarks inside protons
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/776-1.html); acoustic lasers
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/779-1.html); evidence for negative electrical resistance
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/780-1.html); a particle laser or "PASER" (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/792-1.html); hypersound
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/797-1.html); heaviest baryons discovered (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/798-1.html); investigating whether the electron/proton mass ratio changed over time (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/774-1.html); optical "cloaking" (Science, 8 Sept); telecloning, http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/765-1.html; rare positronium ion, http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/763-1.html; wireless energy transfer (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/801-1.html); the sharpest object ever made
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/788-2.html); chemical transistor,
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/786-1.html); radioactive scorpion venom for brain cancer therapy
(http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/782-1.html); liquid flowing uphill (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/772-1.html); and stock market criticality (http://www.aip.org/pnu/2006/split/765-2.html).

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 804  December 5, 2006  by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein,
and Davide Castelvecchi                       www.aip.org/pnu



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